Distracted driving is a major cause of car crashes and serious injuries. In 2017, there were 3,166 people killed in the U.S. in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. It has been reported that every day, nationwide, 1,000 people are injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. Massachusetts has finally passed a law that should help with this problem, by restricting the use of cell phones while driving. Massachusetts joins all the other New England states, New York, and most other states which already have similar restrictions.
As of February 23, 2020, it is now illegal for Massachusetts drivers to hold a cell phone while driving. Here are the details:
- Cell phones must be mounted or installed in some kind of holder, like the ones that mount on a dashboard or in a cup holder.
- In order to make a phone call, all cell phones must be in “hands free” mode, such as Bluetooth, so that the driver can make the call without touching the phone. Apps that allow a user to write and send emails by speaking are also permitted.
- Drivers cannot touch the phone at all for the purposes of making calls, sending texts or emails, or searching the internet.
- The only time a driver is allowed to touch a device is when using a GPS or navigation app like Google Maps or Waze. Even when using a navigation app, the phone still must be mounted or installed in a holder, and not held in the driver’s hand.
- The law applies as long as the car is located on a public street, even if the driver is stopped at a red light or a stop sign. The driver must actually get off of the road before holding a phone or touching it to send a text or email.
From February 23rd until March 31, 2020, police will give warnings to anyone violating the new law. As of April 1, 2020, officers will start issuing tickets with the following penalties:
- First Offense: $100 fine
- Second Offense: $250 fine and completion of distracted driver safety course
- Third and Subsequent Offense: $500 fine, and a surcharge to the driver’s auto insurance
Don’t be fooled by the notion you can hold your phone in your hand out of view and nobody will know. The police know what you’re doing when you look down at your lap and then look back up. Our advice is to just get used to the new hands-free restrictions and keep the phone out of your hand. It will make the roads safer for us all.
– Paul R. Johnson, Esq.